To start with servers, they don’t run food from the back to the front of the house, unless it’s appetizers or desserts. They’re mainly tasked with guest interaction and education. Servers refill drinks. Bus plates. Give tours to first-time customers in regards to how this concept works. There isn’t really a menu and it’s a one-set price.
“They just need to learn the drink menu and appetizer menu,” Colter says. “And we’ve got a couple of desserts. So the onboarding for that process is not as intensive as The Cheesecake Factory, where you’ve got a book of menu items and you’ve got to know everything.”
“Our training is really around taking care of the guest,” she continues. “It is knowing what’s on the market bar, knowing what our sauces are. What’s vegan. What’s gluten free. That type of thing.”
This quickens training considerably and lowers the cost and risk. But even more so, Colter says, it’s just a laid-back atmosphere compared to the typical full-service grind. If a large table walks in, there’s no reason to slam the panic button.
The benefits extend to the back of the house as well. There are usually three or four people in the back and they’re mostly concerned with prep. They learn to make signature sauces, some basic culinary skills, and are asked to dish out, as noted before, just appetizers, desserts, and stock the ingredients bar. “It’s not having to look at a prep book or a recipe book, and try to learn 100 recipes,” Colter says. “So that’s where we luck out, too. It allows us to focus on the important part and that’s making sure that everything is fresh. Everything is delicious, and that we’re concentrating on the guest experience.”
With the structure, FiRE + iCE doesn’t hire a head chef. There’s a kitchen manager. And outside of the managers, GMs and such, there’s no hierarchy among staff.
Colter says servers do quite well with tips, despite the changed workflow. Guests tip as though they’re rewarding the entire staff, she explains. And servers can work far more than the typical four-table section.
“They give some of that money to the grill cooks. They give some of that money to the bartenders. But there’s a lot less stress involved in that server position, but also in the back of the house because you don’t have a situation where all of sudden you’ve got 20 tickets clicking out. You’ve got six people, seven people back there trying to make everything happen,” she says.
“They still show with their money that the server and bartenders, everybody is worth tipping out,” she adds. “Everybody gets the benefit from it. The guys in the front will give money to the guys in the back. It just works.”
Perhaps the most unique angle of the operation is the grill cook. Colter says there are probably four who joined when she did nine years ago, and haven’t left. None of them came from restaurant backgrounds. One worked at a movie theater.
Yet the nature of the demonstration cooking of guest-picked ingredients is something FiRE + iCE can teach far easier than menu execution to specific dishes. And beyond that, it’s as much personality driven and culinary skilled. They learn tricks. Talk to guests. It’s not a cooking role for everybody, she says, but for those that embrace the style it’s unique enough to inspire real longevity.